Remote work is being seen more and more among startups and corporations, so much so that it’s almost become the next…(insert a well-known, popular craze here). As a result, we see articles or blogs that tell us “how to stay healthy”, “how to remain focused” or "healthy work-life balance" while working remotely. Now, while these are often helpful, they may not cover everything you should know about how to make your “work from home experience” the best it can be; not only for you, but for your peers, superiors, and the company as well.
Here are the best practices for those who work Remotely:
Consistency is hard enough to keep in our personal lives, and can be even harder to establish and maintain it while working remotely. You can create consistency in your remote work schedule by doing something as simple as setting a recurring reminder on your calendar, and you can do that for pretty much ANYTHING. It could be a reminder that tells you to get up from your desk and stretch, or take a drink of water at the top of every hour.
Maybe it tells you when it’s time to do 10 pushups (or any form of exercise, really) in the middle of your day. Heck, you could even set a reminder to call your mother during one of your breaks, because it’s not about what you are reminding yourself to do (unless it promotes bad habits or negatively affects your work) because the point is to create regularity.
By setting these reminders, you’re more likely to create new and healthy habits and routines, and it’s said that it only takes 21 days to develop a new habit. Once you’re able to establish consistency in your schedule, it’s sure to positively affect your daily routines as well.
Everybody thinks it’s ‘so hard’ to eat healthy, but it’s actually super easy and super-duper important if working remotely. We far too often grab fast food or unhealthy snacks because we are hungry now and don’t have the time or patience to make it, but nothing good ever comes from it. Junk food just makes us lethargic and negatively affects productivity. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. It’s easier to give in to the guilty pleasures that are chips and chocolate than to choke down a salad or blend up a smoothie. Working remotely makes this even more difficult.
Considering that we humans are social beings, those who work from home often work alone and are at a higher risk of feeling bored. I don’t know about you, but I eat just about EVERYTHING in sight when I’m bored, especially in the comfort of my own home. By prepping meals, the opportunities to ‘nash’ on unhealthy snacks or over eat diminishes, if they’re not omitted completely (depending on how hard-core healthy you are). Sometimes you will not have enough time for making your own meals, when faced with that issue, consider opting for meal kit options. A great healthy option is considering plant-based meals delivered to your door.
If you’re still not convinced, think about all of the extra time you’ll have during your breaks and lunches. Can you imagine, actually enjoying your meal and digesting it properly, rather than running around frantically trying to find food or simply just not eating at all.
I’m not saying go out and run a mile everyday during your breaks or train for a marathon on your lunches (Although, if that’s what you love to do, go for it!). Maybe these kinds of stigmas are what cause people to be unmotivated and not exercise. But you don’t need to think this way. It’s not like you need to be a Spartan to exercise and keep yourself healthy! What, you work at a desk and are super techy? Well, there are ways to motivate you to exercise!
Guess what... “there’s an app for that.” Actually, there is one that is specifically designed for those who work at a desk, where there is more sitting than standing. A popular app used by remote employees is Sluggard, but there are so many apps out there that provide the same or similar assistance that you could easily find a different one that works better for you, if you want to. Apps like Break Time, Randomly RemindMe, or Stand Up! The Work Break Timer are great alternatives for example. There’s even desktop apps that you can use! A writeup from wholefamilyliving.com has gathered a list of 17 different mobile and desktop apps designed to help those of us who work remotely! You can check it out here. By documenting your activity, even in an app, you’re holding yourself personally accountable. On top of that, some apps allow you to compete with your friends and colleagues so you can get your whole team involved and have others to help motivate you!
Working remotely gives a sense of freedom that most employees who work in office don’t have, which is why commitment and accountability are probably two of the most important “work from home” best practices. “Freedom isn’t free” as they say, so if you don’t commit to the work you’re expected to do or hold yourself accountable for the results you produce, it’s likely that this very freedom could be taken away, potentially abruptly.
Of course, there are several ways in which you, as a remote employee, can hold yourself accountable after making commitments. Technology, as we touched on earlier, is the most likely answer. It could be as simple as creating a ‘Daily Goals' chat group, where you and your peers can share daily actions items that you plan to accomplish that day and then follow up with whether or not you did them. The team will eventually establish trust, which will only strengthen the bond of a team, no matter how far the distance is between them. When you have a team like that, you’ll never work alone a day in your life, because there will always be someone there who has your back.
“Working remotely is relatively “new” for many companies and employees, so it’s no surprise that it’s probably new to your family too. If you don’t live alone, (like me) you’ll know that it’s important to make sure they (be it your family, friends, or roommates) understand that, although you may be home, you are WORKING. Don’t let the people you live with treat your work as if it’s meaningless and do what you can to remove their ability to distract you from it. Whether they request help with unrelated tasks or just want to chit-chat, we need to remember that we have a responsibility and that we made a commitment. By creating space and setting clear expectations and boundaries, we can help maintain our ability to stay committed.” - Angel
You can create space in many different ways. One being creating mental space. Mental health is talked about far more openly in today’s day and people are more open learning about ‘the behind the scenes’ of their minds, actions, habits, and thoughts, basically their entire existence. While this is wonderful, it doesn’t mean that it’s not mentally taxing to work alone, remotely, all of the time; at least for some. Creating mental space, where you step away from your screens and take a moment to center yourself, meditate, or do whatever it is that relaxes you, could be a saving grace for anyone experiencing that type of turmoil.
Another space to create is one that is designated as “your workspace”. We all know that it would be darn near impossible to finish that big project we need to do while we sit on the couch and watch that F.R.I.E.N.D.S. episode where Phoebe sings a song about a cat or something. It’s not important as long as you get the point. Dedicating a space to work helps prevent the risk of getting distracted while working and also allows you to be able to walk away so that you can go to your mental space to relax and separate from work for a bit.
For those looking to move away from the solitary method of remote work, there are public workspaces, which give remote employees the opportunity to work in an environment that has an ‘office-like’ feel. While these are great alternatives to the at home workplace, there are times where they or the commute to them are not considered safe. This is where we call upon our good friend, technology! We may not have flying cars (yet), but we do have video conferencing, which is the perfect way to host video work sessions. These sessions give teams from all over the world the opportunity to come together to share ideas, brainstorm, or just develop relationships with one another in real time. In between sessions, the conversations can continue using group chats, either in Slack, Microsoft Teams or any other internal messaging app. They could even be themed, like the “Daily Goals” channel, but more light hearted.
Nothing really more to say here. You work hard and you deserve to take breaks. It’s too easy to get caught up in work when the distractions that come from working in an office are removed. So I’ll say it again… TAKE YOUR BREAKS.
“When I finish a big task, or project, that demands a lot of attention, I like to take a little break and do something that makes me feel good about myself. It can be anything! Maybe you like to have a nice cup of coffee or enjoy listening to your favorite song, it doesn’t matter as long as it makes you smile. I like to meditate for a little while or just get up and walk through the rooms of my house. Give it a try, and you’ll soon understand how great it was to finish that task and you’ll be even more ready to tackle the next one!” - Jessica
When you don’t need to commute to an office, aside from walking the distance between your bed and your desk) it’s tempting to start letting yourself sleep in later and wear those ‘comfy clothes’ that you wouldn’t necessarily wear in public (*cough* pajamas…*cough*). Now that’s just being lazy and no one will say that a lazy worker is a good worker. (Don’t get me wrong, once every blue moon, you might need to catch a few extra z’s and that’s okay, just don’t make it an everyday thing.) How can we avoid laziness? Simple. Get up and get ready for your day as if you were going into the office. Trust me, you’ll feel better, produce better, and you won’t feel like a total schmuck. Trust me on that one too, it won’t make you feel better.
So, there you have it. Remote work, while glorified, still takes work, a lot of work, and isn’t for everyone. However, if you utilize these best practices, and make the best of your work done remotely, it just might be for you.